LAKE ERIE (23-14, 17-7 GLIAC) at MALONE (17-22, 12-12 GLIAC)
Lake Erie heads to Canton, Ohio, on Tuesday, and the Storm will be traveling with a program-best eight-game win streak in tow. The destination will be Thurman Munson Stadium, and the objective will be to beat the Malone Pioneers, keep the streak going and remain near the top of the standings in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. LEC will meet a Malone team that has lost six of its last eight, but the Pioneers are still 12-12 in league play.
The Storm have improved greatly in how they prepare for and play in road games. A program that went 6-18 on the road last season heads to Canton having won 12-of-22 away games this year. Pitching and defense have been solid on the road. Led by SP Heath Kelley's 1.32 ERA and RP Brandon Grunda's 0.00-mark, Storm hurlers own a 2.93 ERA on the road in 2014. LEC heads to MU having won four straight on the road.
The last 3/8ths of Lake Erie's win streak came on Friday and Saturday when the Storm swept the seventh-ranked (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association) Grand Valley Lakers, a program that has won 16 GLIAC titles. Head Coach Brian McGee lauded that performance by discussing the team's focus in its "start-to-finish" philosophy. That focus on details figures to loom large in the road trip that follows.
SERIES: Lake Erie is 2-5 all-time against the Pioneers. Both of LEC's wins came last spring when the Storm went 2-1 against MU. The two teams split an April 26 doubleheader in Painesville (LEC lost 3-2 and then won 11-4); Lake Erie then downed Malone, 4-2, in Canton on May 1. … Over the three 2013 games, Lake Erie pitchers registered a 1.73 ERA.
HIT PARADE: Freshman Lucas Raley had two base hits in Saturday's series finale against Grand Valley. Raley's two-hit game marked his 11th multi-hit game of the season. That ties him with Zack DeCamp for the team lead. For the season Raley – who has played both first base and left field -- is now batting .349/.401/.571 (batting/on-base/slugging). Over LEC's win streak, Raley is batting .462 (12-of-26), with two doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs.
RISP-Y BUSINESS: Over their last eight games, Lake Erie is out-batting opponents, .297 to .180, with runners in scoring position. For the season, LEC is batting .266 (85-of-320) in such situations. Raley has been the Storm's top bat in those clutch situations – he is 12-for-27 (.444) with runners in scoring position.
ARMED AND DANGEROUS: On Monday pitcher Brad Raley was selected as GLIAC Pitcher of the Week for the seven-day period ending April 20. On Friday Raley tossed a complete-game victory, allowing two runs on six hits, with zero walks and six strike outs against GVSU. The Storm won the game 3-2, and Raley made numerous big pitches in the clutch with men in scoring position. Raley held the Lakers to a 1-of-6 mark with runners in scoring position, and his win helped propel Lake Erie to a three-game sweep. Brad Raley is the second Raley to earn a GLIAC weekly award this season. Brother Lucas was tabbed as the GLIAC Player of the Week for the week of March 24. He leads the club in batting with a .972 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Brother Brad has been stalwart on the mound, not allowing hitting numbers anywhere close to that neighborhood. In eight games (all starts), Raley has compiled a 3.77 ERA, striking out 44 batters (while walking only nine) in 45-1/3 innings pitched. He has completed five of his starts and on Feb. 22 tossed his first career shutout.
RAGING ON: Relief pitcher D.J. Stastny earned his fifth "vulture" win of the season on Saturday; he is now 5-0 on the year. Brandon Grunda registered his fourth save of the season in Saturday's game. … Lake Erie's previous best win streak was a six-gamer in 2012. … LEC pitching has allowed more than three earned runs just once over the team's last eight games. Over that stretch, the Storm pitching staff has lowered its season ERA from 3.75 to 3.46. … Over the three-game series against the Lakers, Storm pitching held GVSU batters to a .217 on-base percentage when leading off an inning. … LEC swept the three games from Grand Valley despite the Lakers scoring first in each contest. The Storm are now 11-10 this season when their opponent scores first. … The Green & White are 5-0 this season when leading after seven innings. … The cozy confines of Braggs Field have been a haven for the Storm in 2014 – LEC is now 7-1 at home. … The only other time Lake Erie has ever been 10 games over .500 in conference play was in 2011 when the Storm were, at one point, 22-11. LEC finished at 22-14 in GLIAC play that season, and that stands as the program's best season since the inception of Storm Baseball in 2002.
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